The Super Eagles have been known to start slow at most tournaments and it was not any different on Saturday when they kicked off their Nations Cup campaign against the Swallows of Burundi, who held off their more vaunted opponents for 77 minutes.
After so many illnesses caused by a virus that hit the camp and injury scares to some main players, Gernot Rohr named Samuel Chukwueze as Samuel Kalu’s replacement. Jamilu Collins’ replacement, Shehu Abdullahi, had to go off injured in the first half. In the end, another substitute, Odion Ighalo, scored with almost his first touch.
Here are the player ratings:
|Daniel Akpeyi||90||The Kaizer Chiefs’ goaltender started well but with his team under some pressure towards the end, he started making the mistakes that could have been costly for his team. Rohr will have been a bit apprehensive going against more stellar opposition.||6/10|
|Shehu Abdullahi||42||Was steady until he got injured though he was not as offensive as the Eagles’ technical team would have liked.||5/10|
|William Troost-Ekong||90||Was strong and quick even though the Burundians were better towards the end of the game.||6/10|
|Kenneth Omeruo||90||The more active of the centre-halves, Omeruo showed that his good form with Leganes was no fluke and that Rohr did not make a mistake benching Leon Balogun for him.||6.5/10|
|Ola Aina||90||Playing on the left, Aina was powerful at both ends of the pitch and provided guile with the masterful back-heel that created the only goal of the game.||7.5/10|
|Wilfred Ndidi||90||The newly married midfielder was all over the pitch, cleaning up and delivering passes that pushed his team forward.||7/10|
|Oghenekaro Etebo||90||Etebo was busy in midfield but could have pushed forward since the Eagles had a majority of possession.||6/10|
|John Mikel Obi ©||58||Mikel was supposed to play very close to Onuachu – in the hole but his fitness flagged and he could not combine very well with Chukwueze and Iwobi. Will surely get better as the tournament progresses.||5.5/10|
|90||More is expected from the Arsenal man and he looked up for it at the beginning, when he created some goal scoring chances from the left flank. When he was moved centrally after Mikel’s exit, lost his way.||6/10|
|Paul Onuachu||73||The lanky forward was too soft in the opening stanza and went to ground too easily. Though, lively and ready to run the channels, his decisions were too hasty.||5.5/10|
|Samuel Chukwueze||90||Was very bright at the start but showed his age in some of the moves when he could have passed to a better-placed teammate. He also missed a great chance to score in his first competitive match for the Super Eagles.||6/10|
|Chidozie Awaziem||48||The centre-back was neat and tidy in the tackle and tried to combine offensively with Chukwueze.||6/10|
|Ahmed Musa||32||The assistant captain was a shot in the arm immediately he came on as the Eagles became more of a goal-scoring threat down the left flank.||7/10|
|Odion Ighalo||17||Nigeria’s goalscorer and he showed why he is the main scoring Eagle with his well-taken goal just minutes after coming on. He linked well with his teammates and the Eagles were more dangerous as soon as he was sent on.||8/10|
|Gernot Rohr||To get his team to play on the front foot despite the hiccups the team had to deal with in readiness of the opening match. He made huge calls for the team, dropping Ighalo, Balogun, and Musa but he made up for any gaffe by making the right substitutions, especially in the second half.||6/10|
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